New Zealand breaks silence on Canada-India diplomatic row

New Zealand’s top diplomat said that if Canadian allegations against India over the killing of a Sikh leader proved correct, it would be of serious concern, local media reported on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s statement came after Australia expressed its deep concern over alleged New Delhi involvement in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in the Canadian westernmost province of British Colombia.

Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead on June 18 in Surrey, British Columbia, in front of a Sikh temple. So far, no arrests have been made.

“If those claims were proven true, that would be of serious concern. I won’t comment further on what is an ongoing criminal investigation in Canada,” local daily NZ Herald quoted the foreign minister as saying.

Earlier, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong also confirmed that Canberra has raised its concerns with India over the killing of the Sikh leader.

“I note that investigations are still underway, but obviously these are concerning reports, and as I’ve said, we are monitoring these developments closely with our partners, and we’ll continue to do so,” she told reporters in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was behind Nijjar’s shooting death.

Nijjar was a vocal supporter of independence for a Khalistani state in the Punjab region. The Indian government has repeatedly insisted that Nijjar was a terrorist – a label his supporters denied – and at the recent G-20 summit in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chided Trudeau for allowing Sikh separatist protests in Canada.

Earlier on Monday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said a “top Indian diplomat” has been expelled from the country and expects India’s full collaboration “to get to the bottom of this.”

According to some media reports, the diplomat was Pavan Kumar Rai, who was allegedly associated with India’s premier intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

However, New Delhi has dismissed the allegation as “absurd,” and has demanded that Ottawa take “prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating on their soil.”

Later on Tuesday, in a tit-for-tat move, India ordered a senior Canadian diplomat in New Delhi to leave the country within five days.

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